9 Mois Ferme (9 Month Stretch) – Albert Dupontel

CelineOnline_9mois-ferme_Dupontel_afficheZany, black comedy, 9 Mois Ferme, is on track to becoming one of 2013’s surprise top earning films in France.  It was written, directed and stars French cinema bad boy Albert Dupontel and has attracted over 1,500,000 cinemagoers so far with no signs of running out of steam.

The film is the simple story of 40-year-old, unmarried, high-powered judge Ariane Felder (Sandrine Kiberlain) who lets her hair down at the firm’s New Year’s eve party only to discover six months later that she is pregnant. Not only is she unable to remember what happened on the evening in question, she has no idea who is the father of the child.  Worse is to come when a DNA test reveals he is Bob Nolan (Albert Dupontel), an ex-con who was recently arrested on a grisly murder charge and goes by the name of the ‘eye gobbler’.

From this unlikely scenario, Dupontel has crafted a hugely enjoyable, high-energy comedy held together by his chemistry with Kiberlain and a storyline which is both outrageously funny and surprisingly touching. In press interviews, Dupontel has said he originally wanted to make the film in English with Emma Thompson in the lead role. Fortunately for Kiberlaine that project never saw the light of day.

She shows a deft comic touch as Felder, a lonely career-woman who spends most of her life in a tiny office dealing with a list of heinous crimes.  She has reached the pinnacle of her career by remaining cooly detached from her clients and is horrified to discover the pregnancy which presents a serious obstacle to her dreams of becoming an high court judge.  On the other side of the fence sits Bob Nolan, who was abandoned by his mother and shuttled from one reform school to another before inevitably ending up in prison. These two well-honed tales of the perils of modern living have been ingeniously cross-fertilised by Dupontel. who demonstrates that, despite the vast intellectual and cultural gulf that separates the two characters, they essentially suffer from the same sense of isolation and loneliness.

While Kiberlain is the Ice Queen who gradually melts, Dupontel alternates between the “Honey, I’m home” madness of Jack Nicholson in The Shining and a childlike vulnerability which is oddly engaging

This is humour at its darkest. – there are amputated limbs, a lunatic forensic scientist and one character is regularly clobbered with heavy objects.  Alongside a winning cast of supporting actors, Oscar winner Jean Dujardin turns up in a hilarious cameo as a TV translator for the deaf with his own individual style of sign language.  Ex-Monty Python Terry Gilliam also makes a short appearance as a Hannibal Lecter-like serial killer in a spoof TV report. It’s been a disappointing year for French comedies but it looks like Dupontel’s madcap film has pulled off an eleventh hour unexpected rescue mission. In French cinémas: 16/10/2013

 

9 Mois Ferme is available on DVD with English subtitles, go to ‘Shop for DVDs in Euros’ on French Cinema Review

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